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Hun Sen Asks China to Air Freight Raw Materials for Cambodia's Garment Production

In this file photo, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends the annual Water Festival on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 10, 2019.

Prime Minister Hun Sen asked Chinese producers on Wednesday to air freight critical raw materials, as garment manufacturers in Cambodia prepare to face raw material shortages on account of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hun Sen, who was speaking in Poipet at a road inauguration, said it would be costlier to use air freight but that if it prevented work suspensions at factories, it would benefit workers.

“We will spend more on transportation but we can have jobs and income for workers and fulfill production for factories to maintain profits and avoid closure,” he said, addressing Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian, who also attended the event.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has said 60 percent of raw materials were sourced from China. If the stoppage in raw material deliveries continued, factories would have to cease production starting mid-March.

While it is unclear if production of raw materials has resumed in China, GMAC spokesperson Kaing Monika said some Chinese factories had resumed production and that small consignments could be transported by airplane, though larger orders would need to be shipped.

“Now some factories in China, though not 100 percent of them, have started their production. The government has sought special treatment from our Chinese friends to put Cambodia as top priority in term of supplies,” he said.

The request for air freight comes days after Hun Sen announced measures to mitigate potential impacts from the COVID-19 outbreak and from the partial suspension of the “Everything But Arms” trade privileges to the European Union.

This included tax breaks for garment factories, assurances that garment workers will receive 60 percent of their basic wage for up to six months, if they were laid off and vocational training for workers losing their jobs.